Pitchers of the Month: May

Two starters and two relievers dot Pitcher's of the Month for May. While the pitching overall wasn't spectacular, these four pitchers had fantastic months and one outclassed them all.

Portland Beavers
Royce Ring
1-0, 0.00 ERA
Left-handed relief pitcher

It was not a great month in Portland. The only starter that had an ERA below 4.00 was Jack Cassel at 2.10, but batters hit .294 against him, as he allowed 35 hits in 30 innings. Closer Leo Rosales was 9-for-9 in save opportunities and had a good K/BB ratio of 13/4, but a 4.09 ERA is a little scary for a closer. Although Ring only pitched eight innings in eight games, he did not allow a single run, had a very good K/BB ratio of 12/2 and only allowed four hits with batters hitting .129 against him.

Prospect Watch: As mentioned above, Cassel and Rosales were the only pitchers other than Ring who had success this month in Portland. Left-hander Frank Brooks pitched well in limited opportunities after being called up from San Antonio with a 1-0 and a 0.00 ERA in four innings, as did Scott Cassidy with a 2.70 ERA after coming off of the disabled list.

Disappointments: You have to give Clay Hensley a pass because all of his three starts came on a rehab assignment, but Jared Wells continues to struggle with a 1-2 record and a 7.17 ERA. Wells allowed 33 hits in 21.1 innings, as batters teed off at a .344 clip.

San Antonio Missions
Josh Geer
4-0, 2.01 ERA
Right-handed starting pitcher

Geer was easily the best pitcher in San Antonio this month, winning four of his six starts against no losses. Geer struck out 28 against eight walks in 40.1 innings allowing only 33 hits. In four of his six starts he went seven or more innings with batters only hitting .226 against him. Geer's success is based on the ability to throw three pitches for strikes, changing speeds and not walking batters. In one stretch during this month he allowed only one walk in 21.1 innings.

"Mainly it's just keeping guys off balance," Geer said of his success. "It's just making sure that you're trying to throw something that they aren't looking for and if you have a third pitch it's even better. Also, it's all about keeping the ball down."

Prospect Watch: Left-hander Cesar Ramos pitched better this month with a 2-2 record and a 2.40 ERA. He's not going to wow anyone with his IP/Hits ratio [30/29] or his K/BB ratios [16/9] in 30 innings; but he allowed more than two runs only once in five starts and went at least six innings for all but one.

Disappointments: Closer Neil Jamison blew 3-of-5 save opportunities and posted a 1-2 record with a 14.00 ERA, easily his worst month as a professional. Batters hit .350 against him, as he allowed four home runs in nine innings and issued an uncharacteristic 12 walks against only eight strikeouts. Lefty Sean Thompson also had a tough month after a great April, going 0-3 with a 5.68 ERA.

Lake Elsinore Storm
Wade LeBlanc
2-1, 1.57 ERA
Left-handed starting pitcher

Both LeBlanc and Manny Ayala continue to be the mainstays of the Storm rotation and this month LeBlanc was slightly better. In five starts, LeBlanc walked only four batters in 28.1 innings for a K/BB ratio of 30/4 and gave up 20 hits. He held batters to a .190 average with a 0.84 WHIP. LeBlanc, like Geer, relies on an ability to change speeds and throw three pitches for strikes, fastball, change and curve. The only knock on LeBlanc is it would have been nice to see him go more than six innings in one of his starts, but his numbers in the hitter friendly California League are impressive.

Prospect Watch: Ayala, an Independent League signing by the Padres in 2006, continues to impress and surpass many others with better pedigrees and bigger signing bonuses. The 6-foot-3, 225-pound Ayala was 4-0 in May with a 2.48 ERA, allowing 26 hits in 32.3 innings with a K/BB ratio of 25/9. Southpaw Brent Carter was 4-0 in six starts but also had a 5.14 ERA, but most of that was the result of one of the wild nights that the Storm had in Lancaster where Carter allowed 12 hits and eight runs in five innings.

Disappointments: A tough month for several players, as Steve Delabar went 0-3 with a 7.43 ERA, starter Richie Daigle notched a 2-2 mark and 6.68 ERA, and Brandon Higelin tallied a 0-2 record with a 3.97 ERA and batters hit .340 against him.

Fort Wayne Wizards
Ernesto Frieri
0-0, 2.79 ERA
Right-handed relief pitcher

Nearly the mirror image of Portland, as only one Wizards' starter had an ERA under 4.00 and that was Andy Underwood who went 0-3 for the month. On the positive side, Ernesto Frieri had a nice month posting solid K/BB ratios of 20/5 in 19.1 innings against only 12 hits. Frieri held batters to a paltry .182 batting average. The only downside was the two home runs he surrendered was a little high in the small amount of innings pitched.

"You have to try and work ahead," said Frieri. "That is important in baseball for the pitcher. When you work ahead, you are (in) the dominant position."

Prospect Watch: Closer R.J. Rodriguez was 4-for-5 in save opportunities but was a little hittable, allowing batters a .322 average with 19 hits in 14.1 innings pitched. Rodriguez actually pitched well for most of the month but had one very bad outing against West Michigan where he gave up five hits and four runs, which caused the numbers to balloon. Madfriars #19 prospect Drew Miller is on the disabled list with a tender shoulder. Underwood just had some buzzards luck in May only allowing more than three runs once in six starts. His peripherals were good 20/6 K/BB ratio with a .260 batting average. We should see improvement in his won-loss record next month.

Disappointments: Aaron Breit, our top pitching prospect in Fort Wayne [ #13], continues to struggle with a 1-3 record and an 8.61 ERA. Batters hit .316 against Breit whose biggest problem seemed to be his control, issuing 10 walks against only 12 strikeouts in 23.1 innings pitched. In one of his starts this month Breit failed to get out of the first inning allowing four hits, four earned runs and three walks before being removed. Pitcher of the Month: Wade LeBlanc

"If you go out there and try to pitch away from your strengths, that's when you're going to get beat," LeBlanc said of the challenges of the California League. "I think if I go out here worrying about the ball flying out, I'm going to leave the ball up even more and I'm going to get hurt even worse than I would have if I just go out and pitch my game. I think that's something I have to really keep in mind – and something every pitcher that's out here does – that they have to pitch their game."

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